Acknowledgements as a Window into Legal Academia

52 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2020

See all articles by W. Nicholson Price II

W. Nicholson Price II

University of Michigan Law School

Jonathan Tietz

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: March 11, 2020


Legal scholarship in the United States is an oddity—an institution built on student editorship, a lack of peer review, and a dramatically high proportion of solo authorship. It is often argued that this makes legal scholarship fundamentally different from scholarship in other fields, which is largely peer-reviewed by academics. We use acknowledgments in biographical footnotes from law-review articles to probe the nature of legal knowledge co-production and de facto peer review in the legal literature. Using a survey and a textual analysis of about thirty thousand law-review articles from 2008 to 2017, we examined the nature of knowledge co-production and peer review in U.S. legal academia. Our results are consistent with the idea that substantial peer-review-like vetting occurs in the field; we also found evidence that both authors and editors use the information in acknowledgment footnotes as a factor in article selection or submission. We found that the characteristics of acknowledgment footnotes in articles in high-ranking law reviews differ dramatically from those in low-ranking law reviews in ways that are not simply due to differences in quality. Further, there are problematic gender differences in who is being acknowledged. We propose some modest changes to current practices that would help maximize transparency and minimize bias in legal scholarly networks and law-review article selection.

Keywords: empirical legal studies, star footnote, legal scholarship

Suggested Citation

Price II, William Nicholson and Tietz, Jonathan, Acknowledgements as a Window into Legal Academia (March 11, 2020). Washington University Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

William Nicholson Price II (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

Jonathan Tietz

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI
United States

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